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Good causes, the local economy and insights into Digital

At VU there’s a strong desire to do the right thing and act on what we believe in: Human centred, ethical and effective marketing. We’re deeply aware that we operate in a marketing industry where it’s easy to get mistaken for a huckster and so we want to imagine a different way of doing things.

We decided to try something new. 

We wanted to do a good thing and we wanted to understand our position in the local economy so we came up with a survey. We asked questions of our contacts, offered to share our findings with the wider community and incentivise participants with a charitable donation in exchange for their input.

We’re pleased to say that with the help of our local business contacts we have received 63 responses which means that VU have been able to donate £630 to The Amber Foundation. We’ve received some valuable insight into the local economy’s digital thinking and so we’ll make good on our promise of sharing some of our findings.

The big picture of Digital in our south Devon local economy

The biggest single commissioner of digital services in the local business community, perhaps unsurprisingly, is the businesses owner who ranked at 61% of our respondents. Marketing managers, charity and sales professionals combined, only managed a third of this with a combined total of about 19%.

When asked how they like to consume digital content most people tended to want smaller reads with no-one at all wanting to read long content pieces and most users identified themselves as moderately tech savvy. 

Respondents tended to identify themselves as “creative thinkers” in the main, with a much smaller number considering themselves as analytical. We think this illustrates a tendency to an emotional response to media in our results.

The average respondent identified their businesses as having some component that reaches outside of the immediate local and regional area with a noticeable number declaring international interests. This was a pleasant surprise showing that businesses local to us don’t necessarily have a local attitude.

Building, financial, IT and charity all showed as leading sectors in the area with 33% not falling into any particular traditional sector. It’s at this point we realise we should have asked these 33% how they did want to identify as a sector, but we’re not perfect. Next time.

The most popular form of digital marketing was “Social Media marketing” at 29.3%, closely followed by “Email Marketing” at 22% and in third place ,Content Marketing at 16.7%.  Only 8% of respondents were prepared to pay for “Paid Advertising” as part of their digital spend and SEO was a modest 14.7%. 

With high figures around social media and content, it suggests that perhaps we gravitate towards the activities that are more familiar to us or that don’t require additional spending. 

In terms of challenges, a staggering combined total of around 69% said they felt they didn’t understand their customers, audience or competitors. This is a big figure which we think  illustrates that as businesses, we really are failing to do our market research and it’s something we can all improve.

Nearly all businesses are spending marketing monies on digital, with only 14.5% of our survey spending less than 20% of their annual marketing budget on digital. A significant 30.6% of respondents tell us their majority spend (between 80-100% of annual budget) is digital with “time and resource” being more of an obstacle to success than lack of budget. So we can see the will to do digital marketing is there in the local economy, but perhaps the blocker is time rather than money and 57.1% of respondents are planning to spend more on digital marketing in 2021.

Finally, it is really nice to see that over 70% of respondents thought that the green credentials of their suppliers were either very or extremely important. With climate change having an increasing impact on all of our lives this suggests that it’s more important than ever to take concrete steps to make your business greener and to let your customers know what you are doing.

Thanks to everyone who took part in this survey. 




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